REVIEW: Fender Catocaster

Fender’s Stratocaster series has been rocking the world for almost 60 years through various permutations. The latest is the Catocaster. I got my hands on one to review this week and I was eager to see how it compared to my Fender American Vintage ’62 Reissue Stratocaster.

The Catocaster is available in a variety of finishes (Tabby, Chinchilla and Tortiseshell) and countries of origin (including Siamese, Persian, Balinese, British [Shorthair], Scottish [Fold], Norwegian [Forest Cat] and many more).

The particular Catocaster on review is a Relic model, finished to mimic a Catocaster built in December 2002. As such its fur is a little bit mottled (with a few knots for authenticity), it has a few simulated scars designed to look like the remnants of injuries sustained in defending the instruments’ territory, and the left front fang is chipped. Structurally it appears to be in good working order aside from the occasional mess on the rug.

The first thing I noticed about the Catocaster was that it was very difficult to extract from the case. After a bloody struggle I managed to extricate it, but after five minutes it wanted to get back in the case again – until I tried to take a photo, whereupon it scampered under the couch. Eventually it returned to the case of its own free will and a photograph was obtained.

While some guitarists like buttery smooth playability, the Catocaster reacts angrily to any attempts to adjust its action or intonation. As such, it really puts up a fight, with a maximum of tension and a minimum of bendability. Attempts to use the Catocaster’s whammy bar were met with loud howls (at best) and painful personal injuries (at worst).

I’m not entirely sure that Fender are on the right track with the Catocaster. It’s difficult to control and it has an almost snooty streak of independence. I have a feeling that some players won’t like the Catocaster at all while some will want to surround themselves with ten or twenty of them in a small dark house with the curtains constantly drawn.

4 Replies to “REVIEW: Fender Catocaster”

  1. That’s a really beautiful Catocaster you’ve got there, Peter. Believe it or not, I had a ’91 Himalayan Catocaster (something of a hybrid between the Siamese and Persian models) since the age of four until a couple of years ago – they don’t last forever, I’m afraid. We were inseparable – I would carry it around the house until my arms got tired with no trouble. They’ve got a steep learning curve, but we got along famously after a few years of learning its quirks. The finish was unspeakably high-maintenance, though.

    Still, I couldn’t go on without one, and in the past year I’ve picked up a late-model G&L ACAT in black and white to match my Tribute series Legacy. It’s quite a different beast from my old Catocaster – a much thinner, treble-heavy tone, easier-to-maintain finish, and more lively overall. I’m encountering some of the same control issues you’ve mentioned in your review, although admittedly I haven’t had this one nearly as long as the Catocaster.

    I’m a fan for life; they tend to play you as much as if nor more than you play them, but the experience is truly distinctive. They’re not for everyone, admittedly, but everyone should spend some time with one at least once.

  2. OMG… I sure hope you didn’t try to plug that jack into the Catocaster !! The result might be a disaster !!

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